Golf On the Couch

Back in the days of yore when I did a lot of psychotherapy I was sometimes surprised when a patient would suddenly latch on to something I did or said. It was often the umpteenth time I’d suggested the same alternative behavior or made the same interpretation, but for some reason the timing was finally right and “Voila! Houston, we have progress!”

The more therapy I did, the better I got at sensing when the time might be right, but it was still rare that the first intervention was sufficient. Most of the time I’d have to sit back and wait for the time to be right again, and repeat the process. The few times where one and only one interpretation led to significant change were impressive and memorable.

Correspondingly, beating my patient over the head with an interpretation or behavioral suggestion wouldn’t work, no matter how correct it might have been. In fact, it could make the person worse. If the timing was wrong, it would either be misunderstood, lead to a negative experience, or interfere with the therapeutic relationship.

Do you think these guys took their therapy techniques to the course?

Working on my golf swing, either by myself or with an instructor, reminds me of that therapeutic process. Making a tweak in my set-up or swing may or may not be helpful, depending on whether that tweak fits in with the overall pattern of my swing at that time. Trying to release properly when my balance is wrong only makes things worse, but when I get the balance problem worked out, the release can help a lot.

I had a golf buddy (now deceased, but for reasons totally unrelated to this post) who came to the course every time with at least one new swing idea, usually gleaned from golf magazines or TV. I tried to go deaf and nod politely as he explained his new tip(s). If I listened, I was in danger of trying to insert something into my swing that would screw me up for that round, at the least. Even if it was theoretically correct or useful, it was highly unlikely the rest of my swing was ready to incorporate the new technique. The timing was just wrong.

My buddy also never seemed to progress beyond bogey golf. I think a lot of the reason he stayed at that level was that he never repeated the same tip twice. He was off to something new every time and never worked over and over at incorporating the change. If it didn’t work the first time, it was history.

As I’ve mentioned before, my swing blew up on me several months ago and I’ve just now started to get a better feel back in my game. There were some environmental reasons for the blow up (drought, thin fairways, winter chill and winds) but I think mostly it’s because I made a change at the wrong time, and that led to disaster. I fiddled with my stance, that caused a fundamental shift in everything else, and the house of cards collapsed. In therapeutic terms, I tried to force a behavioral change into a system that wasn’t ready, and I got worse.

So I’ve been rebuilding my swing a step at a time and have actually simplified things. I understand my swing better than I did before the crash and have a pretty good idea of what’s wrong when things aren’t working. My handicap isn’t all the way back, but it’s on the way. Now I can modify my stance and work on my release without too much added confusion.

I wish it was going a little quicker, but I always was a long term therapist.

(Image of Freud, Jung, and others via Wikipedia. Image in the public domain.)


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